Рада підтримала виділення мільярда гривень шахтарям

Верховна Рада України 31 жовтня розглянула правки до державного бюджету і підтримала урядову ініціативу про виділення 1 млрд гривень шахтарям. Про це повідомляє пресслужба уряду.

Відповідний законопроєкт підтримав 291 депутат.

«Парламент підтримав пропозицію уряду про виділення 1 млрд грн на вирішення гострих проблем вугледобувної галузі, виплати заробітної плати шахтарям», – мовиться у повідомленні.

15 вересня у Верховній Раді зареєстрували проєкт державного бюджету. Парламент схвалив його у першому читанні. Остаточно законопроєкт про державний бюджет мають ухвалити до 1 грудня.


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Exhibit Dedicated To J.D. Salinger Opens In NYC

The New York Public Library just opened an exhibition dedicated to J.D. Salinger, the author of the classic coming-of-age novel Catcher in the Rye. For the first time, the reclusive writer’s fans will be able to see his rare letters, manuscripts, photos and other personal items. The glimpse into the writer’s creative process is attracting thousands. Anna Nelson visited the exhibit, and Anna Rice has her story.

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Рада ухвалила законопроєкт про відокремлення ГТС від «Нафтогазу»

Верховна Рада ухвалила 31 жовтня законопроєкт про анбандлінг «Нафтогазу», тобто про відокремлення газотранспортної системи України від НАК «Нафтогаз України», під управлінням якої вона зараз перебуває.

Відповідний законопроєкт підтримав 341 народний депутат.

Документ передбачає, що ГТС залишиться у державній власності, однак для управління нею буде створено окрему компанію-оператора, на яку «Нафтогаз» впливати не зможе.

Анбандлінг «Нафтогазу» одна з умов, які дадуть можливість Україні могла укласти новий контракт про транзит газу з Росією за європейськими правилами, зазначав раніше глава Міненерго Олексій Оржель.

У липні компанія «Нафтогаз» заявляла, що негайне проведення відокремлення оператора газотранспортної системи зараз неможливе через чинний транзитний контракт з російським «Газпромом».


Наразі «Нафтогаз України» здійснює повний цикл операцій розвідки та розробки родовищ, експлуатаційного та розвідувального буріння, транспортування та зберігання нафти і газу, постачання природного і скрапленого газу споживачам. Відокремлення функцій, зокрема, транспортування газу вимагає, серед іншого, так званий Третій енергопакет нормативних актів Європейського союзу, втілити які зобов’язалася й Україна. «Нафтогаз України» є одноособовим акціонером компанії «Укртрансгаз», яка займається транспортуванням газу.

Реформа «Нафтогазу» передбачає проведення демонополізації компанії. Оператор української ГТС має бути виділений в юридичну особу, не пов’язану ні з «Нафтогазом», ні з іншими підприємствами, які займаються видобутком і генерацією енергії.

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Security Firm Says Chinese Hackers Intercepted Text Messages

Chinese hackers with a history of state-sponsored espionage have intercepted the text messages of thousands of foreigners in a targeted campaign that planted eavesdropping software on a telecommunications provider’s servers, a cybersecurity firm said.FireEye said in a report issued on Thursday that the hackers belong to the group designated Advanced Persistent Threat 41, or APT41, which it says has been involved in spying and cybercrime for most of the past decade. It said some of the targets were “high-value” and all were chosen by their phone numbers and unique cellphone identifiers known as IMSI numbers.
The cybersecurity firm would not identify or otherwise characterize the victims or the impacted telecoms provider or give its location. It said only that the telecom is in a country that’s typically a strategic competitor to China.The spyware was programmed to capture messages containing references to political leaders, military and intelligence organizations and political movements at odds with the Chinese government, FireEye said.FireEye’s director of advanced practices, Steven Stone, said that none of the known targets was a U.S. government official.The discovered malware, which FireEye dubbed MESSAGETAP, was able to collect data on its targets without their knowledge but could not read messages sent with end-to-end encrypted applications such as WhatsApp and iMessage.“If you’re one of these targets you have no idea your message traffic is being taken from your device because your device hasn’t been infected,” Stone said.FireEye said the hackers also stole detailed calling records on specific individuals, obtaining the phone numbers they interacted with, call durations and times.
A government representative at China’s embassy in Washington, D.C., did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.FireEye did not identify the maker of the equipment that was hacked or specify how the hackers penetrated the telecom provider networks.It said APT41 began using MESSAGETAP during the summer, which is around when pro-democracy protests began in Hong Kong. The firm said since its discovery, it has found “multiple” telecoms targeted by the malware.FireEye said it has observed APT41 targeting four telecoms this year as well as major travel services and healthcare providers in countries it did not identify.Details of the espionage operation come as the U.S. tries to persuade allied governments to shun Chinese telecom equipment providers led by Huawei as they build next-generation wireless networks known as 5G, claiming they represent a risk to national security.The U.S. government already has banned government agencies and contractors from using equipment supplied by Huawei and ZTE, another Chinese company. It is now seeking to bar their use in telecom projects that receive federal funding.Huawei vehemently denies that it has allowed China’s communist rulers to use its equipment for espionage, and Washington has presented no proof of such. U.S. officials say a 2017 Chinese law requires organizations and citizens to help the state collect intelligence.

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India Asks WhatsApp to Explain Privacy Breach

India has asked Facebook-owned WhatsApp to explain the nature of a privacy breach on its messaging platform that has affected some users in the country, Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Thursday.A WhatsApp spokesman was quoted by the Indian Express newspaper on Thursday as saying that Indian journalists and human rights activists were targets of surveillance by an Israeli spyware. The company said it was “not an insignificant number” of people, but did not share specifics.WhatsApp’s comments came after the messaging platform sued Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group on Tuesday, accusing it of helping government spies break into the phones of roughly 1,400 users across four continents including diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and government officials. NSO denied the allegations.“We have asked WhatsApp to explain the kind of breach and what it is doing to safeguard the privacy of millions of Indian citizens,” Prasad said in a tweet.WhatsApp said it had no comment on Prasad’s tweet, but referred to a previous WhatsApp statement that the company believes people have the fundamental right to privacy and no one else should have access to their private conversations.Facebook’s WhatsApp Allows Users to Control Who Can Add Them to Group Chats

        Facebook Inc on Wednesday changed the privacy settings on its WhatsApp messaging platform, allowing users to decide who can add them to chat groups, as it tries to revamp its image after growing privacy concerns among users.

WhatsApp, which has about 1.5 billion users, has been trying to find ways to stop misuse of the app, following global concerns that the platform was being used to spread fake news, manipulated photos, videos without context and audio hoaxes, with no way to monitor their origin or…
India is WhatsApp’s biggest market with 400 million users. Globally, the platform is used by some 1.5 billion people monthly and has often touted a high level of security, including end-to-end encrypted messages that cannot be deciphered by WhatsApp or other third parties.In its lawsuit filed in a federal court in San Francisco, WhatsApp accused NSO of facilitating government hacking sprees in 20 countries, calling it “an unmistakable pattern of abuse.” 

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Pope Declares Vatican’s Secret Archive not so Secret Anymore

Pope Francis has declared that the Vatican Secret Archive isn’t so secret after all.

Francis on Monday officially changed the name of the Holy See archive to remove what he said were the “negative” implications of having “secret” in its name.
From now on, the vast trove of documentation of popes past will be officially known as the “Vatican Apostolic Archive.”
Francis noted that the archive has long been open to scholars and that he himself has decreed that the archives of World War II-era Pope Pius XII, accused by some of not speaking out enough about the Holocaust, would open ahead of time March 2, 2020.
But he said the name change better reflects the archive’s reality and “its service to the church and the world of culture.”


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France’s LVMH Wants to Buy Jeweler Tiffany for $14.5 Billion

French luxury group LVMH has offered to buy Tiffany & Co. for $14.5 billion in cash, sending shares in the New York jewelers soaring.

The purchase would add another household name to LVMH’s plethora of upscale brands. It owns fashion names such as Christian Dior, Fendi, and Givenchy as well as watchmaker Tag Heuer.

It would also give LVMH a much broader foothold in the United States and broaden its offerings in jewelry.

LVMH cautioned in a brief statement that “there can be no assurance that these discussions will result in any agreement.”

Tiffany said the offer was for $120 a share, which is about $14.5 billion. The Wall Street Journal first reported on the offer over the weekend.

The New York-based company said Monday that it was considering the offer. Its shares jumped 31% to $128.81 in premarket trading in New York.

The offer comes as Tiffany has struggled with stagnating sales as China’s slowing economy has weighed on spending by Chinese tourists, who make up a substantial portion of luxury spending. The strong dollar has also made Tiffany products more expensive for consumers outside the U.S.

LVMH competes with the Kering Group, which owns Gucci and Saint Laurent, and Richemont SA, which owns Cartier.


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Students Brave Tear Gas to Join Iraq’s Protests

Thousands of students have joined Iraq’s anti-government protests, defying a government order and tear gas from security forces.
The students skipped classes at several universities and secondary schools in Baghdad and across the Shi’ite south on Monday to take part in the protests. The demonstrations are fueled by anger at corruption, economic stagnation and poor public services.
In Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the protests, demonstrators chanted: “It’s a student revolution, no to the government, no to parties!”
Security forces have fired tear gas and stun grenades to keep protesters from crossing a main bridge leading to the Green Zone, home to government offices and embassies.
At least 219 people have been killed in clashes with security forces since the protests began earlier this month.



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Biden: Kushner has no ‘Credentials’ for White House Post

Joe Biden called it “improper” for President Donald Trump for having his daughter and son-in-law hold positions in the White House, suggesting in a CBS interview Sunday that Jared Kushner is not qualified to weigh in on the complex affairs assigned by his father-in-law.

That assessment, which the Democratic presidential hopeful offered in a wide-ranging “60 Minutes” interview, ratchets up the rhetoric between Trump and Biden over each other’s adult children and family business affairs.

Biden told CBS that he doesn’t like “going after” politicians’ children, but he said none of his children would hold White House posts, even as he continued to defend his son, Hunter, against Trump’s charges that the Biden’s are corrupt because of the younger Biden’s international business affairs while his father was vice president.

“You should make it clear to the American public that everything you’re doing is for them,” Biden said, according to a CBS transcript, when he was asked about Ivanka Trump and Kushner, her husband, in White House posts with significant policy portfolios.

“Their actions speak for themselves,” Biden said of the Trump family. “I can just tell you this, that if I’m president get elected president my children are not gonna have offices in the White House. My children are not gonna sit in on Cabinet meetings.”

Asked specifically whether he thinks Kushner should be tasked with negotiating Middle East peace agreements, Biden laughed. “No, I don’t,” he said. “What credentials does he bring to that?”

Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine and China remains an emphasis of Trump’s broadsides against Biden, a front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. The younger Biden took a post on the board of a Ukrainian energy firm after his father became the Obama administration’s point man on U.S.-Ukraine relations.

Trump’s focus on finding information about the Biden’s Ukraine connections is now at the heart of a House impeachment inquiry against the president. Ukrainian investigators have found no legal wrongdoing by either Biden.

Noting that, the former vice president blasted social media giant Facebook for allowing the Trump campaign to distribute online ads framing the Bidens as corrupt.

“You know, I’m glad they brought the Russians down,” Biden said, noting Facebook’s recent decision to shut down accounts that were distributing misinformation, including about Biden. But, the former vice president asked, “Why don’t you bring down the lies that Trump is telling and everybody knows are lies?”

Hunter Biden in a recent interview said the only thing his father said to him at the time he took the post at Burisma was, “I hope you know what you’re doing.”

The elder Biden told CBS he never got into any details over the firm, which had been the focus on Ukrainian corruption inquiries.

“What I meant by that is I hope you’ve thought this through. I hope you know exactly what you’re doing here,” the elder Biden said. “That’s all I meant. Nothing more than that because I’ve never discussed my business or their business, my sons’ or daughter’s. And I’ve never discussed them because they know where I have to do my job and that’s it and they have to make their own judgments.”

And turning the issue back on the president, Biden repeated a line he’s started using on the campaign trail, urging Trump to release his tax returns. “Mr. President … let’s see how straight you are, okay old buddy?” Biden said. “I put out 21 years of mine. You wanna deal with corruption? Start to act like it. Release your tax returns or shut up.”

Trump’s attacks have not displaced Biden as a duel Democratic front-runner alongside Sen. Elizabeth Warren. But it has nonetheless raised new questions about Biden’s argument that he’d be the best Democrat to take on the Republican president in a general election. And the Biden attack ads Trump and Republicans have financed in early nominating states, combined with Biden’s own lagging fundraising, have led some of his wealthy supporters to openly discuss the possibility of launching an independent political action committee.

Biden’s CBS interview was taped before his recent decision to reverse his previous opposition to such a Super PAC, a move that Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders have indirectly criticized. Biden did address his campaign’s cash balance being dwarfed by Warren and Sanders, saying he’s “not worried” about raising enough money.

As to just how he can withstand Sanders’ and Warren’s grassroots fundraising juggernauts, he replied, “I just flat beat them.”


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Rep. Katie Hill of California Resigns Amid Ethics Probe

Democratic congresswoman Katie Hill of California has resigned amid an ethics probe and revelations of an affair with a campaign staffer.

In a statement Sunday, the 32-year-old freshman from the Los Angeles area says leaving the House is best for her constituents, community and country.

Hill is under investigation by a congressional committee for an alleged intimate relationship with a male senior aide, which Hill denies.

She has acknowledged an affair with a young female staffer. Compromising photos and purported text messages surfaced online this past week in a right-wing publication and a British tabloid.

Last year, Hill won the last Republican-held House seat anchored in Los Angeles County.

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Hong Kong Business People Set their Sights on America

Hong Kong’s reputation as a haven for freewheeling business has steadily eroded since the territory was handed over to China from Britain in 1997. As anti-government protestors step up demands for democracy, and with demonstrations becoming more violent, however, the business environment is getting worse.

High-technology professionals, bankers and financiers head the list of those wanting to go to the United States, a desire that has taken on an added sense of urgency with the level of investment required for the EB-5 U.S. investment visa, known as the “golden visa,” leaping to $900,000 next month from $500,000, where it has been since 1993, as part of an effort to stem money laundering.

The EB-5 visa grants a two-year conditional green card in return for investments in struggling parts of the United States, and applicants have until November 21 to apply under the current investment level.

John Hu, principal consultant of John Hu Migration Consulting, says inquiries have risen four-fold overall since the protests escalated five months ago. He says he is receiving thousands of callers a month, mainly from those interested in heading to the United States, Canada and Australia.

“The protests is definitely a catalyst for people who are determined to go to the U.S.,” Hu says from his office in the Wanchai financial district, adding that the U.S. trade war with China is a further spur.

“This is a very favorable destination, and also in November the investment amount is going to increase from $500,000 to $900,000, so people are rushing in,” he says, referring to the EB-5 visa.

Hong Kong has witnessed a steady loss of its financial clout over the last two decades.

Some business have opted for the Chinese financial capital of Shanghai, others for the West, moves which have been blamed on an erosion of freedoms and failure by Beijing to uphold the promises it made before the handover from Britain.

Protesters Again Take to Streets of Hong Kong video player.
Protesters Again Take to Streets of Hong Kong

As a result protests have become common, but the recent hike in violent clashes between protesters, police and pro-Beijing gangs, in response to government-planned extradition laws bitterly opposed by business groups, has deeply unsettled the city.

Despite the scrapping of those laws, protesters continue to agitate for universal suffrage, and most Sundays are dominated by police and hardcore demonstrators exchanging tear gas and Molotov cocktails. Train stations and businesses with known pro-China leanings are often trashed.

On potential emigration to the United States, Hu notes, “First of all, there is the education, because you have the top-of-the-world Ivy League colleges, and we have lots of financial professionals in Hong Kong.”

 “For people who want to work in Wall Street and the financial world they would like to migrate to the U.S.,” he added

An October survey by the Chinese University of Hong Kong found at least a third of the territory’s 7.4 million people would emigrate if they could. Taiwan, Britain, Malaysia, Singapore and Japan are also popular destinations.

Huw Watkin, head of the risk, research and investigation company Drakon Associates, says a weak economy and comments by the pro-China lobby have not helped, as they have fueled increased migration, amid the current wave of protests.

He cites comments by Junius Ho, ejected from the Legislative Council, Hong Kong’s legislature, after suggesting pro-democracy politician Claudia Mo, whose husband is British, “eats foreign sausage.”

“Incomes have been static for years, the cost of living remains very high, and racist comments by the business elites and pro-China political lobby give the sense that Westerners are actually no longer welcome in Hong Kong,” Watkin adds.

“Given that China is clearly more aggressively nationalistic, here as elsewhere, I am not surprised that people are leaving,” he says.

At the corporate level, the more recent evidence is anecdotal, however.

Goldman Sachs has estimated that between $3 billion and $4 billion in deposits flowed to Singapore, the territory’s main rival in international finance, in July and August.

A flash survey led by the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore found 80% of respondents believed Hong Kong protests had affected their decisions on whether to make future investments here.

Twenty percent said they had “considered plans” to move capital out or relocate their business functions, particularly to Singapore, a trend described by the Hong Kong chamber as a “real concern.”

Watkin said Hong Kong’s strong English-language credentials make it easier for business immigrants to meet U.S. entry standards and that the scramble to leave is unlikely to abate, unless the pro-China lobby backs off and Beijing adheres to its “one country two systems” policy.

That includes the Basic Law, under which Beijing agreed to 50 years of self government and autonomy.

“Hong Kong is this entrepot, this cosmopolitan place, and has been so since its inception,” Watkin saus. “There was a deal and I think it’s incumbent upon the Chinese administration to honor that deal, if not for their own self-interest in being a trusted partner in the world.”

“In Hong Kong it’s a very unique situation and frankly it’s very hard to predict how this will turn out.”

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AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s Exaggerations on Predicting bin Laden

President Donald Trump falsely asserted that he predicted Osama bin Laden’s 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in a news conference Sunday aimed at showcasing his administration’s accomplishments in stemming the terrorist threat abroad.

A look at the president’s claims at the briefing, where he announced the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State group:

TRUMP: “I’m writing a book … About a year before the World Trade Center came down, the book came out. I was talking about Osama bin Laden. I said, ‘You have to kill him. You have to take him out.’ Nobody listened to me.” Trump added that people said to him, ”‘You predicted that Osama Bin Laden had to be killed, before he knocked down the World Trade Center.’ It’s true.”

THE FACTS: It’s not true.

His 2000 book, “The America We Deserve,” makes a passing mention of bin Laden but did no more than point to the al-Qaida leader as one of many threats to U.S. security. Nor does he say in the book that bin Laden should have be killed.

As part of his criticism of what he considered Bill Clinton’s haphazard approach to U.S. security as president, Trump wrote: “One day we’re told that a shadowy figure with no fixed address named Osama bin Laden is public enemy Number One, and U.S. jetfighters lay waste to his camp in Afghanistan. He escapes back under some rock, and a few news cycles later it’s on to a new enemy and new crisis.”

The book did not call for further U.S. action against bin Laden or al-Qaida to follow up on attacks Clinton ordered in 1998 in Afghanistan and Sudan after al-Qaida bombed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The U.S. attacks were meant to disrupt bin Laden’s network and destroy some of al-Qaida’s infrastructure, such as a factory in Sudan associated with the production of a nerve gas ingredient. They “missed” in the sense that bin Laden was not killed in them, and al-Qaida was able to pull off 9/11 three years later.

In passages on terrorism, Trump’s book does correctly predict that the U.S. was at risk of a terrorist attack that would make the 1993 World Trade Center bombing pale by comparison. That was a widespread concern at the time, as Trump suggested in stating “no sensible analyst rejects this possibility.”

Still, Trump did not explicitly tie that threat to al-Qaida and thought an attack might come through a miniaturized weapon of mass destruction, like a nuclear device in a suitcase or anthrax.

TRUMP: “Nobody ever heard of Osama bin Laden until really the World Trade Center.”

THE FACTS: That’s incorrect. Bin Laden was well known by the CIA, other national security operations, experts and the public long before 9/11, with the CIA having a unit entirely dedicated to bin Laden going back to the mid-1990s. The debate at the time was over whether Clinton and successor President George W. Bush could have done more against al-Qaida to prevent the 2001 attacks.


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Protesters Again Take to Streets of Hong Kong

Clashes in the streets as thousands of people took to the streets for another weekend of protests in Hong Kong. This week, the city’s governing body formally withdrew the bill that sparked the original protests earlier this year, but that has done little to appease protesters in this leaderless movement, who say they want the government to do more to stave off what they believe is encroaching control from Beijing. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Hong Kong

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Islamic State Prepared for Life without its Caliph  

The United States is promising there will be no let-up in its pursuit of the Islamic State terror group despite the death of self-declared caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in what is being described as a “daring and dangerous” nighttime raid in northern Syria.
Baghdadi, who took over the group formerly known as al-Qaida In Iraq in 2010 and turned into a global threat, died “whimpering and crying” in a dead-end tunnel, according to U.S. President Donald Trump.

President Donald Trump speaks in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington, Oct. 27, 2019.

“Baghdadi’s demise demonstrates America’s relentless pursuit of terrorist leaders and our commitment to the enduring defeat of ISIS and other terrorist organizations,” the U.S. president said from the White House Sunday, using an acronym for the terror group.
“We know the successors,” he added. “And we already have them in our sights.”
Efforts to track them down may get an additional boost from the raid on the compound in Barisha, in Syria’s Idlib province, which led to the capture of a small group of IS officials and fighters.
Trump said U.S. forces also recovered, “highly sensitive material and information… much having to do with ISIS, origins, future plans, things that we very much want.”

Already, those efforts may be paying off.  The commander of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, General Mazloum Abdi, tweeted Sunday that IS spokesman, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, was targeted and killed in a subsequent joint SDF-U.S. operation near the northern Syrian town of Jarablus, though U.S. officials have yet to comment.

Islamic State: an adaptive, potent terror group
But military and intelligence officials admit tracking down and eliminating key IS emirs and operatives, while serving to degrade the terror group’s capabilities, has not been sufficient to lead to its ultimate demise.
At one point, in late 2015, as the U.S.-led coalition tried to roll back the terror group’s caliphate, officials said airstrikes were killing, on average, one mid-level or senior-level IS leader every two days.

HVI [High Value Individual] strikes killed abt 70 senior/mid-level #ISIS leaders since May “depleting #ISIL‘s bench” per @OIRspox

— Jeff Seldin (@jseldin) October 13, 2015

U.S. counterterrorism officials later described some of those so-called decapitation strikes as “significant blows.”
Yet IS carried on, and even as it’s caliphate collapsed, with the last bit territory falling to coalition forces this past March, the terror group’s leadership was proving to be nimble and adaptive, focusing their efforts on a potent and growing insurgency.
“ISIS is working to advance an insurgency in Syria and Iraq comprised of dispersed networks spanning the battlespace,” a U.S. counterterrorism official recently told VOA.
“The group is using these networks to undermine local governance and reconstruction efforts by stoking violence and mistrust among ethno-sectarian lines,” the official added.
Other current and former officials warn such resiliency has been built into the IS’ operating model from the start.
“It’s a big deal, simply because of the symbolic importance of Baghdadi,” former U.S. Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, told VOA, of the U.S. operation that killed the IS leader.
Baghdadi’s death not enough to stop IS
But he said Baghdadi’s death alone would not be enough.
“ISIS has been more de-centralized and has groomed leaders for just this eventuality,” Clapper said.

Terrorism analysts also point to a growing body of evidence that suggest even in groups which are less prepared to cope with the loss of an influential leader, strikes like the one that killed Baghdadi are rarely death blows.
“The death of a jihadist leader is always a dangerous moment for the group as it can lead to internal struggles,” said Michael Horowitz, head of intelligence for Le Beck, a Middle East-based security and geopolitical consultancy.

FILE – Then-al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden speaks to a select group of reporters in mountains of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, Dec. 24, 1998.

“In general, however, jihadist groups do tend to survive such strikes,” he said, pointing to IS’ main rival, al-Qaida, as an example. “[Osama] bin Laden was replaced by his former number two, [Ayman] al-Zawahiri, a much less charismatic leader, but one that still heads a powerful and global terror franchise.”
Recent intelligence from the U.S. and other countries indicates IS, even without Baghdadi, is well-positioned to survive and even thrive.
Despite no longer controlling territory in Syria and Iraq, the terror group still had an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 thousand fighters across Syria and Iraq. Officials also believe it still has plenty of cash, perhaps up to $300 million at its disposal.
And U.S. officials note IS retains many of its former capabilities, moving them underground as it ceded territorial control to U.S.-backed forces.

“The group has tens of thousands of seasoned fighters and hundreds of leaders who have survived decades of war,” said Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. “The Islamic State is more than its emir.”
Islamic State ‘brand lives on’
U.S. officials have likewise warned that IS has built itself in such a way that developments which they thought would undoubtedly lead to its demise — like the loss of almost all of its physical caliphate — have had less impact than anticipated.
“The so-called ISIS caliphate has been destroyed, but the ISIS brand lives on around the world,” State Department Counterterrorism coordinator Nathan Sales warned this past August.
Still, IS is likely to face some significant challenges, especially in the short term, knowing that the U.S. may have gained access to crucial information during the raid on Bashira.
“The first thing they’re going to do will probably be to activate security protocols to try to get their manpower and their resources to a position of safety with the expectation that the U.S. is going to hit the [IS] network hard,” said Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a counterterrorism analyst and CEO of Valens Global.
There is also a question of securing the allegiance of IS’ various affiliates, especially those in Afghanistan, Egypt’s Sinai, Libya and Nigeria.
“The standard bayat [pledge of allegiance] is not to an organization,” said Gartenstein-Ross “Bayat is on an individual to individual level.”
And exactly who that new leader will ultimately be is not clear.

This file image made from video posted on a militant website July 5, 2014, purports to show Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq.

“If you asked me this question a few years ago, I would have said that ISIS was always expecting that Baghdadi would eventually be killed and that the process of succession was already set in place,” said Amarnath Amarasingam, a terrorism researcher and assistant professor at Queen’s University in Ontario Canada, who has interviewed active members of the movement.
“But now, after Baghuz, all of this is up in the air,” he said. “Whatever structures they had in place for succession are probably no more.”
There are also questions about how Baghdadi’s death will impact the morale of IS fighters and supporters. While analysts say most will view him as a martyr, ignoring President Trump’s descriptions of the IS leader dying “like a dog” and “like a coward,” his continued ability to defy the U.S. and send out occasional messages may be felt.
“It seems his reappearance earlier this year was a real morale booster for supporters,” said Raphael Gluck, co-founder of Jihadoscope, a company that monitors online activity by Islamist extremists.
“Clearly he, or those around him, thinks it’s good for ISIS and worth the risks,” Gluck said at the time.

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Colorado City Teams With Jaipur, India, to Celebrate Literature

The Jaipur Literature Festival began in the city of Jaipur, India. With 300 speakers and over 500 million visitors every year, it is the world’s largest free literary festival. The festival also travels internationally. One stop is Boulder, Colorado. Shelley Schlender reports.

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Villagers: US Drone Strike in Somalia Kills Frankincense Collectors

BOSASO, Somalia / WASHINGTON / PENTAGON — A U.S. drone strike intended to hit an Islamic State (IS) hideout in Somalia’s northeastern region of Puntland mistakenly killed two frankincense collectors, according to local elders and a survivor who spoke Saturday with VOA.

The Friday afternoon attack also injured another person after the drone strike hit the men, who were in the process of collecting frankincense near the remote Ameyra village in the Golis Mountain region of Somalia’s Northeastern Bari province, multiple local elders told VOA.

Sa’id Abshir Mohamud, a local elder at Timishe village near the target of the strikes, told VOA Somalia about the reported civilian casualties.

“Men sent to the location of the strike brought back the dead bodies of two locally known villagers who went there to collect frankincense,” the elder said.

He identified the victims as Salad Mohamud Barre and Ayanle Ibrahim Mohamud.

“One of the bodies was mutilated,” the elder said.


U.S. Africa Command said it conducted the airstrike and targeted IS terrorists in region. Despite the local elders’ claims, a statement from U.S. AFRICOM said Friday it killed three terrorists and no civilian were harmed. 

“At this time, it is assessed the airstrike killed three (3) terrorists. Currently, we assess no civilians were injured or killed as a result of this airstrike,” the statement said.

To boost their ranks and mislead the locals, terrorists in Somalia routinely spread propaganda saying U.S. military drones target civilians. Additionally, the terrorist groups are known to use civilians as human shields.

The prevalence of the militants’ anti-Western smear campaign makes it difficult to immediately prove the complicity or innocence of those targeted by such drone attacks in remote villages.

In an exclusive interview Friday with VOA, Africa Command Director of Public Affairs Col. Chris Karns also stressed the importance of the U.S. strikes in Somalia.

“Oftentimes people will see the airstrikes, which are important because they help the disrupt al-Shabab. They create organizational confusion, they essentially, the airstrikes prevent them [the terrorists] from maneuvering. So they set the conditions for development. They set the conditions for governance, and they’re foundational to the progress that’s being made,” Karns said.

Survivor’s description

Mohamed Mohamud Barre, a man claiming to be a survivor of the strike, described to VOA what he said he witnessed.

“The three of us went there to collect frankincense days ago. A missile surprisingly targeted where we were, killing the two other men. I ran through a dark smoke and the debris of the mountain rocks and crawled under a nearby mountain cave, then another missile was targeted at my location but the cave and Allah saved me. In the cave, I found out that I had sustained shrapnel injuries and remained there until midnight Friday. I am bleeding and I feel kidney pain,” Barre told VOA on the phone.

VOA could not fully verify Barre’s claim but Isse Jama Mohamed, a revered local traditional elder, who later contacted VOA, confirmed the man’s claim and called for the Somali federal government to investigate the incident so the victims’ families could pursue their rights for compensation.

“One of the dead men left eight orphans and the other, five. I think they were mistakenly targeted. I call for the federal government and the government of Puntland Regional State to look into the incident,” Mohamed said.

He said one of the dead men left Bosaso, the port and the commercial hub of Puntland, three days ago to collect frankincense to pay medical bills for his pregnant wife.

“He took his pregnant wife to Bosaso for medical care but he could not afford to pay the bills. He decided to go the mountains and collect frankincense to sell and then pay the surgery bills for his wife, who is carrying twin babies, one of them dead,” the elder said.

Targeted area

The area where the latest U.S. strike occurred is a known hideout for IS militants in Somalia. It is a hot and dry rocky land, where locals historically have harvested gold and frankincense, which is used in traditional Sufi religious ceremonies.

One attack in the area in April killed the deputy leader of Somalia’s IS group, Abdulhakim Dhuqub, who was responsible for the extremist group’s daily operations, attack planning and resource procurement.

Another airstrike in May killed 13 of the group’s fighters.

There have been incidents in which the U.S. military has been accidentally responsible for the deaths of civilians and subsequently admitted so after an investigation.

Earlier this year, a civilian casualty report issued by human rights group Amnesty International concluded there was credible evidence that five U.S. airstrikes were responsible for the death of 14 civilians killed between 2017 and 2018.

The U.S. military initially denied Amnesty International’s reporting but later admitted that a woman and child were killed in one incident in April 2018, near the town of Elbur, in the central Somali region of Galgudud.

Officials said they missed the incident because it was not reported to them.

The acknowledgement marked the first time the U.S. admitted to causing civilian casualties during its air campaign in Somalia, which began in 2011 under the direction of President Barack Obama.

Since the election of President Donald Trump, the number of strikes in the region has risen sharply.

U.S. AFRICOM has said repeatedly the precision airstrikes it carries out in Somalia are to support Somali government security forces and create safe space for increased governance in the nation.

“In support of the federal government of Somalia, U.S. forces will use all effective and appropriate methods to assist in the protection of the Somali people, including partnered military counterterrorism operations with the Federal Government of Somalia, AMISOM [the African Union Mission in Somalia], and Somali National Army forces,” the latest U.S. AFRICOM statement said.

Fadumo Yasiin Jama contributed to this story from Bosaso, Somalia; VOA Pentagon Correspondent Carla Babb

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IS Leader Targeted by US Forces Believed Dead; Trump Plans Statement

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the shadowy leader of the Islamic State group who presided over its global jihad and became arguably the world’s most wanted man, is believed dead after being targeted by a U.S. military raid in Syria.

A U.S. official told The Associated Press late Saturday that al-Baghdadi was targeted in Syria’s Idlib province. The official said confirmation that the IS chief was killed in an explosion is pending. No other details were available.

Both Iraq and Iran told Reuters Sunday that they had been informed by sources in Syria that al-Baghdadi had been killed.

“Our sources from inside Syria have confirmed to the Iraqi intelligence team tasked with pursuing Baghdadi that he has been killed alongside his personal bodyguard in Idlib after his hiding place was discovered when he tried to get his family out of Idlib towards the Turkish border,” said one of the Iraqi security sources.

Reports #ISIS leader Abu Bakr al #Baghdadi may have been killed in #Idlib#Syria shouldn’t come as a complete surprise-at least the location

In July, a @UN report warned senior ISIS leaders “are among those who have made their way to the #Idlib area…”https://t.co/4ixEKW0xT2pic.twitter.com/xEFrnTjy8h

— Jeff Seldin (@jseldin) October 27, 2019

President Donald Trump teased a major announcement, tweeting Saturday night that “Something very big has just happened!” A White House spokesman, Hogan Gidley, would say only that the president would be making a “major statement” at 9 a.m. EDT Sunday.

From @ABC: https://t.co/RaE2cRAPov#ISIS

— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) October 27, 2019

The strike came amid concerns that a recent American pullback from northeastern Syria could infuse new strength into the militant group, which had lost vast stretches of territory it had once controlled.

U.S. officials feared IS would seek to capitalize on the upheaval in Syria. But they also saw a potential opportunity: that Islamic State leaders might break from more secretive routines to communicate with operatives, potentially creating a chance for the United States and its allies to detect them.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Syria war monitor, reported an attack carried out by a squadron of eight helicopters accompanied by a warplane belonging to the international coalition on positions of the Hurras al-Deen (al-Qaida affiliated group, Guardians of the Jihad) and where IS operatives are believed to be hiding in the Barisha area north of Idlib city, after midnight Saturday.

It said the helicopters targeted IS positions with heavy strikes for about 120 minutes, during which jihadists targeted the helicopters with heavy weapons. The Syrian Observatory documented the death of 9 people as a result of the coalition helicopter attack. It is not yet known whether al-Baghdadi is one of them, it said, adding that the death toll is likely to rise due to the presence of a large number of wounded.

Rise and fall of caliphate

Al-Baghdadi led IS for the last five years, presiding over its ascendancy as it cultivated a reputation for beheadings and attracted hundreds of thousands of followers to a sprawling and self-styled caliphate in Iraq and Syria. He remained among the few IS commanders still at large despite multiple claims in recent years about his death and even as his so-called caliphate dramatically shrank, with many supporters who joined the cause either imprisoned or jailed. He had long been thought to be hiding somewhere along the Iraq-Syria border.

His exhortations were instrumental in inspiring terrorist attacks in the heart of Europe and in the United States. Shifting away from the airline hijackings and other mass-casualty attacks that came to define al-Qaida, al-Baghdadi and other IS leaders supported smaller-scale acts of violence that would be harder for law enforcement to prepare for and prevent.

They encouraged jihadists who could not travel to the caliphate to kill where they were, with whatever weapon they had at their disposal. In the U.S., multiple extremists have pledged their allegiance to al-Baghdadi on social media, including a woman who along with her husband committed a 2015 massacre at a holiday party in San Bernardino, California.

$25 million bounty

With a $25 million U.S. bounty on his head, al-Baghdadi had been far less visible in recent years, releasing only sporadic audio recordings, including one just last month in which he called on members of the extremist group to do all they could to free IS detainees and women held in jails and camps.

The purported audio was his first public statement since last April, when he appeared in a video for the first time in five years.

#ISIS supporters urging patience as unconfirmed reports come in that Abu Bakr al Baghdadi may have died in a US-led raid in #Syriahttps://t.co/hjJmysXpG2

— Jeff Seldin (@jseldin) October 27, 2019

Per @JihadoScope, #ISIS supporters on social media warning other followers to be wary of Western news reports…but that if the reports are true, #Baghdadi fulfilled his duty for martyrdomhttps://t.co/FDXoU9nOl5

— Jeff Seldin (@jseldin) October 27, 2019

In 2014, he was a black-robed figure delivering a sermon from the pulpit of Mosul’s Great Mosque of al-Nuri, his only known public appearance. He urged Muslims around the world to swear allegiance to the caliphate and obey him as its leader.

“It is a burden to accept this responsibility to be in charge of you,” he said in the video. “I am not better than you or more virtuous than you. If you see me on the right path, help me. If you see me on the wrong path, advise me and halt me. And obey me as far as I obey God.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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Police, Catalan Separatists Clash as Day of Protest Ends in Violence

Clashes between police and militant elements in a thousands-strong crowd of demonstrators transformed part of central Barcelona into a battleground late on Saturday as another day of pro-independence protests turned violent. 

Projectiles were fired, at least six people were hospitalized with injuries, and barricades were set alight after officers charged ranks of demonstrators — many young and masking their faces — who had amassed outside Spanish police headquarters. 

The violent standoff in the city’s tourist heartland offered stark evidence of the fault lines developing between hardline and conciliatory elements within the region’s independence movement. 

It lasted several hours before protesters dispersed through the city’s streets. 

Barcelona has witnessed daily pro-secession protests since Oct. 14. That was when Spain’s Supreme Court sentenced nine politicians and activists to up to 13 years in jail for their role in a failed independence bid in 2017, prompting widespread anger in the region and sending shockwaves through Spain’s political landscape. 

Catalan pro-independence demonstrators attend a protest to call for the release of jailed separatist leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Oct. 26, 2019. Banners read “Freedom.”

Saturday’s protest was not the first marred by violence, with unrest notably on Oct. 18 having been more widespread. But it contrasted starkly with events earlier in the day, when 350,000 Catalans had marched peacefully through the city in support of calls from civil rights groups for the jailed separatist leaders to be freed. 
Bottles, balls, bullets

The later protest was organized by CDR, a pro-independence pressure group that favors direct action and has cut off rail tracks and roads, as well as trying to storm the regional parliament. 

It began around 7:30 p.m. (1730 GMT) and as the crowd grew to around 10,000, according to police estimates, demonstrators threw a hail of bottles, balls and rubber bullets at officers, TV footage showed. 

Police carrying shields and weapons and backed by some 20 riot vans then charged the demonstrators in an attempt to disperse them, splitting the crowd in two along Via Laietana near the police headquarters. 

Reuters TV footage showed police armed with batons forcing their way through the crowd while demonstrators threw stones and flares. News channel 24h showed police grappling one-on-one with demonstrators, who fell back before reforming their lines. 

Some projectiles were fired, with a Reuters photographer among those hospitalized after being hit in the stomach by a rubber or foam bullet. Catalan emergency services said that, in all, six people were hospitalized. 

The organizers of the earlier protest, grass-roots groups Assemblea Nacional Catalana (ANC) and Omnium Cultural, had hoped that, with pro-secessionist parties split over what strategy to adopt, it would refocus attention in the secessionist camp by 
drawing the largest crowd since the court verdicts were passed. 

“From the street we will keep defending all the [people’s] rights, but from the institutions we need political answers,” ANC leader Elisenda Paluzie told the gathering, pledging to organize more protests. 

Local police said around 350,000 attended, compared with a daily peak of 500,000 at the Oct. 18 protest and 600,000 at a march that took place on Catalonia’s national day last month. 

All those figures, however, represent only a small percentage of the region’s 7.5 million population, and its electorate is almost evenly split over the issue of independence. 

A Catalan pro-independence demonstrator throws a fence into a fire during a protest against police action in Barcelona, Spain, Oct. 26, 2019.

Mainstream Spanish parties, including the minority Socialist government, have consistently rejected moves toward Catalan independence and all except for the left-wing Podemos are opposed to any form of referendum. 

They are now gearing up for a national election on Nov. 10. 
‘Prison is not the answer’

Both ANC and Omnium Cultural eschew violence and their then-leaders were among the nine jailed on Oct 14. 

Many who joined their march carried Catalan pro-independence flags and banners bearing slogans that included: “Prison is not the answer,” “Sit and talk” and “Freedom for political prisoners.” 

In the front row was regional government head Quim Torra, who earlier presided over a ceremony at which hundreds of Catalan mayors endorsed a document demanding self-determination. 

“We have to be capable of creating a republic of free men and women … and overcoming the confrontational dynamic with a constructive one,” he told them. 

While not currently affiliated with any party, Torra belongs to the separatist political movement Junts per Catalunya. It has been in favor of maintaining confrontation with authorities in Madrid, while its leftist coalition partner Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya favors dialogue. 

One marcher, Maria Llopart, 63, criticized the lack of unity between the two parties. “Everything looks very bad. We are not advancing,” she said. 

Francesc Dot, 65, said the nine leaders had been jailed in defense of “Spain’s unity.” 

His wife, Maria Dolors Rustarazo, 63, said she should also be in prison because she voted in the 2017 referendum, which Spanish courts outlawed. “If [all separatist votes] … have to go to jail, we will go, but I don’t think we would all fit,” she said. 

She condemned the violence but had understanding for young protesters being “angry at the lack of democracy.” 

On Saturday they included Manel, a 20-year-old student with his face obscured by a cloth, who said he was among those who lit barricades during last week’s unrest. 

“We need a consistent protest — more streets and less parliamentary talk, because that doesn’t seem to work,” he said before the CDR protest turned violent. 

“If we halt the economy, the Spanish government would be obliged to talk.” 

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In South Carolina, Democrats Accuse Trump of Sowing Racism

Democratic presidential candidates in South Carolina Saturday accused U.S. President Donald Trump of stoking racism as they vied for the state’s black vote in its strategically important early primary.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and five other Democrats participated in a forum at historically black Benedict College a day after Trump was presented an award there for his work on criminal justice, sparking outrage among candidates and temporarily prompting Senator Kamala Harris to pull out.

Harris, a former district attorney and state attorney general in California, spoke at the event Saturday after the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center, which gave Trump the award, was removed as a sponsor, according to her campaign.

A spokeswoman for that nonprofit group, which continued to be involved in organizing the event throughout the day, did not respond to a request for comment.

“I said I would not come because I just couldn’t believe that Donald Trump would be given an award as it relates to criminal justice reform,” Harris told the audience.

“Let’s be clear: This is somebody who has disrespected the voices that have been present for decades about the need for reform,” she said, criticizing the president for describing an impeachment inquiry against him as a “lynching,” a form of vigilante killing historically associated with white supremacists.

Showcase for Democrats

The event is an important showcase for Democrats ahead of South Carolina’s Feb. 29 primary, the party’s fourth state-nominating contest. Six in 10 Democratic voters in the state are black and Biden has a strong early lead in local political polls.

In receiving the award Friday, Trump extolled his record on race and criminal justice before a largely handpicked and appreciative audience. The award recognized Trump last year signing bipartisan legislation including easing harsh minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

Biden told the crowd on Saturday that “I don’t quite understand” why Trump would get the award. “It’s not just his words that have given rise to hate,” he said. “His actions — his actions have failed the African American community, and all communities.”

Trump hopes his support for a sweeping criminal justice reform law will help him pick up votes among African Americans next year after only winning 8% of the black vote in 2016. The president easily won South Carolina, where Republican voters outnumber Democrats 2-to-1, in 2016.

On Twitter, the president shot back at Harris, calling her a “badly failing presidential candidate” and said low unemployment and new criminal justice reforms achieved during his administration are “more than Kamala will EVER be able to do for African Americans!”

A spokeswoman for Trump’s presidential campaign, Sarah Matthews, added that “only people with desperately failing campaigns try to make this kind of racist nonsense against the President and Republicans work.”

Biden and Warren

Ten Democrats seeking the presidential nomination are speaking at events in South Carolina this weekend and presenting plans on legalizing marijuana, ending the death penalty and eliminating sentencing disparities for offenses involving crack cocaine and powder cocaine, which have disproportionately affected black people.

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is scheduled to speak on the final day of the criminal justice event Sunday along with two other Democrats.

In South Carolina, Democrats are working to chip away at a Biden’s early advantage. Bolstered by the eight years he served as vice president to Barack Obama, the first black U.S. president, Biden has deep connections with black politicians and clergy.

Biden leads his closest rival in South Carolina, Warren, by nearly 20 percentage points, according to a RealClearPolitics average of recent polls. The state may end up being crucial for the former vice president as a last line of defense if he continues to lose ground to rivals in Iowa and New Hampshire.

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Trump to Uphold Tradition of Presidents and Baseball

President Donald Trump’s plan to attend Game 5 of the World Series Sunday will continue a rich tradition of intertwining the American presidency with America’s pastime.

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s limousine drove onto to the field ahead of the 1933 World Series, the last time the nation’s capital hosted the Fall Classic. Congressional hearings on the stock market collapse were postponed so senators could attend the game.

Harry S. Truman tossed out a first pitch from the stands of a regular season game in August 1945, just days after the end of World War II, giving Americans a sense that normalcy was returning after years of global conflict.

George W. Bush wore a bulletproof vest under his jacket when he threw a perfect strike from the Yankee Stadium mound during the 2001 World Series, not 10 miles from where the World Trade Center was attacked a month earlier.

FILE- Former President George W. Bush throws the ceremonial first pitch before Game 5 of baseball’s World Series between the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers, in Houston, Oct. 29, 2017.

Trump, who has yet to throw out a ceremonial first pitch since taking office, plans to arrive after the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros are underway and leave before the final out, in hopes of making his visit less disruptive to fans, according to Rob Manfred, baseball’s commissioner.

Deep ties to baseball 

While it will be Trump’s first time attending a major league game as president, he has deep ties to the sport.

A longtime New York Yankees fan who was spotted regularly at games in the Bronx, he was also a high school player with enough talent that, he has said, he drew the attention of big league scouts.

Presidential attendance at baseball games has “become an institution and a unifying influence in a nation that is losing both,” said Curt Smith, a former Bush speechwriter and author of “The Presidents and the Pastime.”

“It is part of the job description, whether the president is a Republican or a Democrat or a liberal or a conservative. Bush found it a joy, he understood the symbolism of the moment. And he was the rule, not the exception,” Smith said.

Trump mentioned his World Series plan to reporters in the Oval Office on Thursday. But when asked whether he might throw out the first pitch, he said, “I don’t know. They’re going to have to dress me up in a lot of heavy armor,” apparently referring to a bulletproof vest. “I’ll look too heavy. I don’t like that.”

FILE – Chef Jose Andres, left, and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda attend the grand opening of the Shops & Restaurants at Hudson Yards, March 14, 2019, in New York.

First pitch honor goes to Andres

But the Nationals, who decide on ceremonial first pitches, made clear that the president was not asked to take the mound. That honor instead will go to a notable Trump critic, celebrity chef Jose Andres, whose humanitarian work has been widely acclaimed.

Andres, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Spain, has been a longtime critic of the president’s views on immigrants and he halted plans to open a restaurant at the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington. The Trump Organization then sued Andres, who also denounced the administration for failing to do enough to help the people of Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017.

There’s some suspense around how Trump might be greeted at the game.

Though the fans at the high-priced event are likely to skew more corporate than at a regular season Nationals contest, Trump is extremely unpopular in the city he now calls home. In the 2016 election, Trump won 4% of the vote from the District of Columbia.

Trump’s White House staff has long tried to shield him from events where he might be loudly booed or heckled, and he rarely ventures out into the heavily Democratic city. (With the exception of his hotel, a Republican-friendly oasis a few blocks from the White House.)

‘Every president gets booed’

“It’ll be loud for Trump but every president gets booed: both Bushes, Reagan, Nixon. When Americans pay for their ticket, most of them buy into the great American tradition to boo whomever they want,” Smith said. “He should embrace it: So what if the elites boo you? Think of how it plays with your voters elsewhere in the country, thinking ‘There they go again, booing our guy.’ Use it!”

Trump has long been a baseball fan, especially of his hometown Yankees. Before he became president, he would be spotted at games, sometimes along the first-base line with then-Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. Trump was also memorably photographed behind home plate across town in the moments after the final outs of the 2006 NLCS when the New York Mets lost to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Trump played high school baseball at New York Military Academy, where he was a star first baseman. His coach, Col. Ted Dobias, told Rolling Stone in 2015 that Trump “thought he was Mr. America and the world revolved around him.”

“He was good-hit and good-field,” Dobias said. “We had scouts from the Phillies to watch him, but he wanted to go to college and make real money.”

Phillies spokesman Greg Casterioto said Friday that the team’s scouting records do not go back that far and there is no way to verify that claim. But Trump, when honoring the 2018 World Series champion Boston Red Sox at the White House in May, fondly remembered his time playing the sport.

“I played at a slightly different level,” Trump said, “but every spring I loved it. The smell in the air.”

FILE – President Donald Trump shakes hands with former New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera during ceremony presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Rivera, in the White House, Sept. 16, 2019, in Washington.

Relationship with pro sports

That event also underscored Trump’s tumultuous relationship with professional sports. Several Red Sox stars, including Mookie Betts, and the team’s manager, Alex Cora, declined to attend the White House ceremony. Trump has disinvited other championship teams, including the Golden State Warriors and Philadelphia Eagles, from attending after some of their players criticized him.

Trump is, so far, the only president since William Howard Taft in 1910 not to have thrown a first pitch at a major league game. The first president known to attend a game was Benjamin Harrison in 1892. Calvin Coolidge, nearly a decade before Roosevelt, was the only other president to attend a World Series game in Washington.

Trump will sit with league officials and likely watch from a luxury box, behind security and away from much of the crowd. That would be very different from some of his predecessors, including John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, who sat by the field for their ceremonial duties.

“In the old days, they would throw from the presidential box,” said baseball historian Fred Frommer, who has written several baseball books, including a pair of histories about Washington baseball. “Players from both teams would line up on the first base line and would fight for it, like a mosh bit. And whoever emerged with it would take it to the president for a signature.”

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